Mormons. LDS. Latter-Day Saints. Utahns? Who in the world are these people? Do they even know who they are?
A lot of people know us as Mormons. Many of us even commonly use that name. But if you Google “Mormons,” Google really should respond with saying, Did you mean: members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? It’s true! We really do prefer this mouthful.
If you are not too familiar with our Church, you might be wondering: Where on earth did the name “Mormon” come from? “Mormon” comes from The Book of Mormon (yes, kind of like the musical, but no, totally not like the musical). It is a book of scripture that testifies of Jesus Christ and is used in tandem with the Bible. Here’s a short video released by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to explain a little more about it:
Unfortunately, in the early days of the Church, members were called Mormons as a slur, especially in cases of persecution and violence against them. It’s since transformed to a casually-accepted nickname used by members, friends, and enemies alike. Others have tried to be a little more accurate by using the name LDS (Latter-day Saints) as another nickname.
We believe that Christ has been running His Church through prophets for 2 centuries, hastily restoring it to its perfect state in preparation for His Second Coming “… in the dispensation of the fulness of times” as prophesied by the Apostle Paul. (Ephesians 1:10)
Russell M. Nelson, president of the Church since January 2018, has already established a reputation for keeping Church members on their toes, as he has announced many “big changes” to Church policy.
In August of 2018, President Nelson announced the following with all the authority of a living prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ:
The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (D&C 115:4)
The Church promptly began implementing massive changes throughout their departments and resources to reflect this reemphasis, including the change of the Church website, once lds.org, now churchofjesuschrist.org.
A couple months later in a worldwide Church address, President Nelson gave a 15-minute talk reemphasizing this change. He especially requests that Church members use the correct name of the Church in all cases, and to encourage others to do the same. About this declaration he is unapologetic. As a prophet who speaks for Jesus Christ in these days like the prophets of old, he states:
It is the command of the Lord. … It was the Savior Himself who said, “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” …
[The Savior] is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.
What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement.
I would like to testify that this is true. And now, it has been over an entire year since this initial statement from this prophet of God.
Policy in practice – a culture shift
Honestly, I have always felt uncomfortable using nicknames for the Church and its members, so I am grateful the change has not been too difficult for me. However, it is hard for me to still see newspaper headlines stating “LDS Church Does This” or “Mormon Bishop Does That.” It pains me even more to hear longtime members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and even some I look up to—say, “…so when we as Mormons do… wait, can I still say that? Well, I’m going to anyway…” or just continue on saying “She’s LDS” or “we’re just Mormons” without batting an eye.
Despite this disappointment, I have perceived that we are edging toward a massive cultural shift. The more I and those around me do use the name of the Church correctly, the culture of the Church has already begun to move away from arbitrary, rote traditions toward thoughtful applications of Christ’s teachings and love.
A few months ago, I was home visiting my parents. Over Sunday dinner, they were urging my 17-year-old brother to ask out a girl in the ward. Flustered and annoyed, he started to respond, “No! I can’t go out with her! You can’t ask people out in your ward when you’re M—a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!”
We all started to laugh, but then we all paused. As we considered his statement, a critical conversation ensued. Why in the world would being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mean you can’t ask someone out in your congregation? Jesus never said anything about that. It’s a little ridiculous.
There are other aspects of the culture of members of the Church (often dubbed “Mormon Culture” or even “Utah Mormon Culture”) that have nothing to do with following Christ and perhaps even distract or contradict this mission.
For example, I’ve heard many members use something coined “Mormon Standard Time” as a joking excuse for being late to events or even to church. But think about it: Why would being a member of Jesus Christ’s restored Church mean you can arrive late to your obligations? If anything, wouldn’t that mean you should be generally reliable and honest rather than tardy and fickle?
What we’re promised
On the other hand, I would like to challenge you, members and friends of the Church, to imagine a world where everybody refers to us and everything about us as part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rather than by any nickname.
Indeed, President Nelson reveals these exciting promises:
I believe Christ’s work through His Church will be unhindered and unleashed to work on people and the world in a way it has never been permitted to in the history of the world. Imagine the restored power of Jesus Christ in all its glory shared with light and authority. I believe the future of Christianity is very bright.
My favorite “policy change”
This correction is perhaps my favorite of recent changes to Church policy. No, it wasn’t 2-hour church! And of course, the introductions to ministering and the family-centered, church-supported curriculum, Come, Follow Me, are very dear to me.
However, I feel that shifting the Church’s focus toward Christ in something as simple as a name prepares the way for effective, Christ-inspired incorporation of all recent changes as well as those to come. For example, by putting Christ at the center of our conversation, communication, and even identities as members of His Church, we receive added power to invite Him into our congregations and homes as we incorporate policies like ministering and Come, Follow Me.
In so many ways, we are like the New Testament Jews learning to retire the Law of Moses and adopt the Higher Law taught by Jesus. I believe President Nelson was inspired by the Lord to help us live at a higher standard to prepare for Christ’s not far distant return to His Earth.
I encourage you, whoever you are, to please try to take the prophet’s counsel to heart. Please don’t call us Mormons, and please do remember that we are trying to follow Jesus in everything—an effort that is not meant to be convenient. No matter who you are, I know the Lord will bless you for following this commandment.
What do you think?
How have you and your family incorporated this reemphasis of the correct name of the Church? Do you agree that it will chase away aspects of “Mormon Culture?” Why or why not? Which aspects would you like to see dispelled? Share your thoughts in the comments.